McDonald’s was the only franchised chain in Chicago’s Pride Parade yesterday, fitting in its hometown. You can see the Golden Arches and the “Equality with a side of fries” sign.

Transparent short shorts worn over rainbow underwear. Yards of gold fabric billowing like wings behind outstretched arms on the back of a Harley. A giant rainbow cape with the words “Make America Gay Again.” A floor-length knife-pleat neon yellow see-through skirt revealing black briefs. 

It was the Pride Parade in Chicago yesterday, and the fashions were only part of the scene. Kicking off the annual journey down Halsted Street, the heart of Chicago’s Boystown and LGBTQ community, was Grand Marshall Lori Lightfoot making history as the city’s first openly gay mayor. 

A man standing on a second-floor balcony shouted, “Ms. Lightfoot! Want some beads?”He flung them down and she caught them. The crowd screamed. “This is a place where people can truly live their authentic lives,” Lightfoot said earlier, and later stood with her wife and teenage daughter, swaying and singing along to Diana Ross’s anthem: “I’m Coming Out.”

A McDonald’s float, the only one in 150 entrants from a franchised restaurant, held a banner, “Equality with a side of fries,” with employees dancing on top. Chicago is McD’s hometown, of course, with new headquarters moving from the suburbs to downtown in June 2018, so its appearance was fitting. (Also, it provided the franchise angle to this piece, which I promised my editor.)

The Obama Foundation marchers got a loud ovation, with a voice in the crowd yelling for Michelle to run for president. So did supporters of Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and California Senator Kamala Harris’s posse.

Performers from the Baton Show Lounge, Chicago’s 50-year-old drag showcase, struck a pose or three, wearing pink, orange, purple, blue and green gowns, respectively. This parade was historic for another 50th anniversary, marking the Stonewall Inn riots in New York City that launched the Pride movement.

By 2:30, a half hour before the parade was scheduled to end, temperatures dropped and it started to pour, and the parade was canceled with about 10 floats never having left the starting gate. The crowds scrambled to exit or headed indoors where the cocktail-shaking bartenders were just getting going.

Two young men stayed on the street, their t-shirts getting soaked but the message in large black letters standing out: “IT’S PRIDE TIME B**CHES,” their shirts said, and so it was, weather be damned.


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